WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Ensuring the President, Vice President, senior State Department, and Department of Defense leaders have the air transportation they need to serve the nation is the mission of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate.
Comprised of approximately 300 employees located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Tinker AFB, and Hanscom AFB, the directorate is responsible for the acquisition and life cycle management of the VC-25A fleet, more commonly known as Air Force One, VC-25B – future Air Force One – as well as a host of executive and special mission aircraft, including the C-12, C-21, C-32, C-37, C-40 and E-4.
Brig. Gen. Ryan Britton, Program Executive Officer for the directorate, recently sat down for an interview and discussed some of the organization’s recent successes and upcoming events.
Q: What are some of the milestones your team has coming up?
Britton: One upcoming milestone we have is Critical Design Review for the VC-25B program. What you do and lay out in critical design affects the entirety of the program. If you get it right up front, you increase the probability of success. We are not schedule driven, but event driven. Depending on the CDR results, we plan to begin making modifications to the aircraft around the start of 2020.
Currently, we are in the process of an interior refresh for the C-32 and C-21 fleet. The interiors of some of our C-32s have not been refreshed in over two decades and are now getting upgraded seats, new carpet, restored side walls and overhead bins..
In addition, we will soon add two more C-37 aircraft to the existing 12 aircraft fleet. The first is slated for delivery in December and another in March 2020. The team recently established a contract with Gulfstream that will allow us to continue to add to the C-37 fleet, as authorized. In fact, there are two additional C-37 in the FY20 President’s budget and currently with congress for approval.
Furthermore, The National Airborne Operations Center, Executive Airlift, Airborne National Command Post, Take Charge and Move Out (NEAT) Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) study is underway. This AoA is an Air Force led, joint service effort to ensure the Department of Defense pursues the most suitable alternatives for the recapitalization of the large capacity Executive Airlift and National Military Command System airborne, fixed-wing layer fleets. The analysis is focused on the replacement of the current airframes performing the missions – E-4, C-32, and E-6. The AoA is coming to a close with a report and briefing to the National Leadership Command, Control and Communication system council early next CY, followed by a Congressional committee review and an OSD CAPE sufficiency review.
Q: The Air Force talks a lot about the importance of engaging industry, what is your organization doing to make those connections?
Britton: One of the ways we are connecting is through Pitch Day. We have one coming up Nov. 13-14 at the Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio and we are very excited. Industry is able to pitch their ideas and products and if we see an innovative technology that supports our requirements, we can provide an “instant” contract award using SBIR funding. So far, we’ve already received 90 proposals for ideas to help us do our sustainment and modernization programs better.
We are always looking for new technologies and new capabilities that will enhance the experience of those that utilize these executive aircraft. I’m hoping that in November we’ll start making some awards.
Q: What are some of the directorate’s recent accomplishments?
Britton: We’ve had a very productive year. The team successfully delivered VC-25A tail #28000 to the Presidential Airlift Group at Joint Base Andrews after completing its multi-phase depot and communication modifications, spanning from Nov 2018 – Aug 2019. The depot effort included 83 corrosion inspections, 63 structural inspections, 39 Airworthiness Directives, 300+ AFTO 103 user requirements and 17 modifications, ensuring both presidential aircraft are available to support the president through next year. We also achieved Full Operational Capability for E-4B Secure Survivable Voice Communications, and we were approved to exercise Section 804 authorities on the E-4B Survivable Super High Frequency Program, which will enable us to deliver the capability one year faster.
Other accomplishments include world-wide Stage IV Frequency Spectrum Certification for the C-12 and C-21 to comply with U.S. and international airspace requirements for automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast. This complies with the January 2020 mandate, enabling these aircraft to access the global air space.
The E-4B team, working with Air Force Global Strike Command and the Air Force Materiel Command Centralized Asset Management Office, executed $81.5 million of Fiscal Year 2019 funds to address E-4B supportability requirements, $36.2 million in the last month of the fiscal year. This additional funding positions us for success in Fiscal Year 2020, allowing us to maximize aircraft availability for this high-demand four-aircraft fleet.
The Big Safari Senior Leader Communication System team was able to use Fiscal Year 2018 fall-out funding to contract for the latest-and-greatest VIASAT modem. We are the first adopter of this technology, even ahead of the commercial market, that extends Ka-Band coverage over the Atlantic Ocean and Europe – providing tenfold bandwidth improvement outside the CONUS. By April 2020, C-32, VC-25A, and C-40 aircraft will begin covering this capability.
Q: What are some of the challenges the directorate faces?
Britton: This portfolio and specifically the aircraft we deal with are the most important aircraft in the world. On America’s worst day, these are the aircraft that the nation turns to for continuity of government and to keep the nation running. With that it’s a zero fail mission set.
What we constantly deal with is trying to keep an aging fleet operational to support the President and trying to balance that with producing a new fleet.
This mission area is very diverse. We deal with everything from the very large Air Force One, down to the small C-21. Every day, no matter the platform, you could have the President on one plane, the vice president on another, the Secretary of Defense on another plane, and the Secretary of State on yet another plane.
The key thing is communication, we have to have very open minds and we have to work fast.
Q: As PEO, what’s your primary area of focus?
Britton: While the entire portfolio is critically important for safe, reliable transport of our nations senior leaders, my primary focus--what I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to bed--is delivering the VC-25B as soon as possible.
Q: Do you have anything you would like to add?
Britton: Coming into this organization, I’ve been impressed with the level of expertise, the technical capabilities and people leaning forward, trying to find new ways to do business. I’m seriously impressed with the people I work with and very happy with what I’ve seen. It’s great to be part of the Presidential and Executive Airlift team…The Pride of the Nation!